Wild Dunes 72 HOURS by Ara Hagopian is a 20-piece photography exhibit covering the Isle of Palms beach resort in South Carolina. The work was captured with the Sony A7R full-frame camera and 55 mm Carl Zeiss lens.
My 72 HOURS exhibits cover popular United States destinations such as New York City, Manhattan Beach CA, Perkins Cove ME, and Isle of Palms SC. The pictures are not intended to be a highlight of the best, or most famous, of the attractions’ sights. As such, today’s exhibit is not a collection of what a visitor must see if they’re staying at the resort.
What viewers get is this artist’s impression of what was beautiful or interesting during three-plus days on site. To be free to wander the area with a camera—and without a checklist—is the heart of 72 HOURS.
Once again, and perhaps for the last time, I present the photographs in their shooting order. Why is this worth mentioning? When I took the pictures, I had no inkling to consider their order. Now that I’ve arranged two shows this way, I will never shoot innocently again, if I for a moment think I’m filming the series flow.
Wild Dunes 72 HOURS.
ABOVE: First steps. Monday, June 17. Here’s what it’s like to step out at 7 AM. Have a fruit breakfast on the balcony, and decide what wonderful things to do today. In fact, how about we explore this beach, together, right now?
ABOVE: View. The week had several short, heavy rain storms, plenty of sun, and wind–lots of wind! The only sun umbrella that withstands the force is the kind the housing authority can set up for you. It’s the only way to go, if you want to read near the water. Believe me, there is nothing in this world like reading a good book on a beautiful beach, where you’re not fighting with your drug store umbrella and sinking-sand chair. A cold drink at hand, and you’re on vacation baby.
ABOVE: Layers. Here we can see the four textures from sand to sky. I wish I’d shot it in landscape but portrait brings focus. What’s missing from the photograph is the hissing sound as the foam rushes us, and retreats, both movements in victory.
ABOVE: Front six. What caught my eye was the beach, so white and clean from the constant wind. Then the homes looked smart and beautiful, their colors adding to the casual walkers’ pleasure. What made this photograph an inclusion to this exhibit is the sky. That perfect sky, a drop-in complement to the structures and the sand.
ABOVE: Storm coming.
ABOVE: Interlock. Have you read their story?
ABOVE: Three old souls. I love the splay; they are laying like cats on a sunny rug. The turtle with the most-dry shell has been enjoying the warmth the longest. He wants me to go. I obey.
ABOVE: Condense-tension. A funny thing happens when you carry a camera from an air conditioned living room, out to the humid morning– the lens fogs up, on the outside and inside of the camera, too. One simply has to wait about twenty minutes for equilibrium to take place, naturally. Most of the time, condensation-lens photography is a waste until the glass is clear. In this case, the fogginess has added a pleasing haze.
ABOVE: Party’s over. A beach ball has lost its mojo. The kid or the parents have moved on. Maybe they didn’t realize their possession had become trash. An exit question, at their moment of purchase in the store that morning: “How long before you stop caring about this beach ball, and where it’s going to end up? Seven hours from now? Six?”
ABOVE: To be removed. An old ribbon marker on a long-gone branch. Some time ago, maybe a decade or longer, a city worker marked this branch to be removed, like so. The wood was cut, the ribbon remained, and everyone has moved on. Except, the trace that remains tells the story. Was the branch removed because it was unsightly? Isn’t leaving the ribbon at least equally unsightly? Respect your work. Finish the job.
ABOVE: Pelican run. A serious storm is approaching Isle of Palms and this bird is heading home. I wish I got a bit more of the beach houses into frame, but this photograph is full of tension and energy, and the moment came and was gone– one picture only. Cropping the rooftops added nothing to the composition so they remained, grounding us in this uncertain moment. How will nature pummel us? We will see!
ABOVE: The Wild Dune. The thing with the world is, you’re going to miss most of it. If you really understand what I mean, you would look around, a lot more than you do now. That would be fighting our nature, which regulates on the routine. And the routine is an artless world.
This is the money shot. Take a look at the prettiest thing I saw all week. What we’re looking at is a scrub brush after a night of heavy wind. The wind blew so hard, and so long, it left a trail of sand ten feet long.
See this dune. Not only is this a deposit of the lightest, finest sand, but look at that lay. Look at nature’s design, so fragile but created with such force! If it were even possible, this wedding gown train could only have been made by the gentlest of human hands, and where would they plant their feet! –but we know Man had nothing to do with this arrangement. Except perhaps, to share it.
Once again the reward of photography is delivering something new to someone like you. You weren’t there but you are here. For another view of this gorgeous creation, go back to the title graphic of this exhibit.
ABOVE: Fill ins. The beating rains of the night have hardened the dune. Then the winds fill the grooves with light, dried sand. Incredible to see; irritating to feel as it hits your body; decibels louder than city traffic; and wilder than anything else worth seeing.
ABOVE: Being. I think about the highest being, and the lower beings too. How one made the other, and one makes the other. This crab was walking the beach, as I was. He looked at me. He didn’t seem afraid. Oh, the gulls love his kind.
I study this picture and I look at his claws. What I see is this. His two arms are perfectly suited to bring food to his mouth. It’s that simple. Look for yourself. How can I be disgusted with him? How can I fear him? A fragile creature wanting to nourish himself, and I can say, I get it. I understand. I am beginning to understand.
ABOVE: Right here. The beating force makes you hold your hat, then maddeningly you take it off for the duration. The white grains rush past you like they’re in a race and you are a useless overpass. Don’t bother about getting out of the way. They’ll go right around you.
The color of the sand can be captured but not encapsulated. It is this color you see here and is not one hue or even a themed palette. Are you ready for the truth? The color is shaped by the sound, and what you hear is a forced whipping, that alters intensity depending on where you happen to point your head. And on Wild Dunes beach, you are looking all over.
There is a fine place you’re going to, but this isn’t the way. This is a diversion from a worthier destination. You’ve chosen this time but it isn’t the best time, you’re filled with thoughts that are out of place here.
Yet, by the time you’ve finished this end-of-day beach walk, you have been to the one place you needed to be. You have turned to look at what’s exactly important, heard the one kind of quiet that the wind has carefully filtered for you. You have well-filled your footprints. It started out all wrong but you stuck with it. Not because of your superior judgement or intuition, but the superiority of right here.
ABOVE: Time laps. Ten pelicans scrape the water, always stopping people in their tracks, to stare.
ABOVE: Storm. Here it comes. The rain and violence push you away. Yet, we stay. Because, it will change. We won’t want to give up our place. We don’t want to be harmed, so we cover up and take it. To claim what’s to come after. And here it comes.
ABOVE: Sun shadows. There’s a moment you can’t recreate, set up, or plan for. You can only be ready, if you haven’t fled or hidden yourself. This is why we stay– and for so much more.
ABOVE: Your pace. Southern birds have longer tails than their Northern cousins. The South Carolina flourish makes me happy. I know you, kinda. Show me more, at your pace please.
ABOVE: The one question on everyone’s mind. How do you stay so clean on the beach of Wild Dunes?